Rural China Staggering towards the Digital Era: Evolution and Restructuring

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Abstract

This research aims to explore how rural China evolves towards and how it is restructured in the digital era. Rooted in the systematically entrenched urban–rural duality, rural China was traditionally marginalised and received limited benefits from the country’s urbanisation development. Digital technologies are thus highly expected to facilitate novel opportunities towards rural reinvigorating development in China. This research first investigates the trajectories of rural China’s development via a retrospective lens, and argues that the evolution of rural China has the potential to transform from a top-down, policy-driven regime in the pre-digital era towards a bottom-up and top-down, technology and policy jointly driven regime in the digital era; and the digital era presents opportunities for rural in-situ urbanisation 2.0 in China, which is socio-economically and spatially distinct from the Township and Village Enterprise-based rural in-situ urbanisation of the reform era. This study further explores the possible restructuring of rural China in the digital era and argues that the digital force-enabled rural restructuring would be filled with dynamics and complexity and lie in multi-facets. This seminal research generates valuable references on the trajectory of rural society’s development in China, and the findings can help comprehend both opportunities and challenges that rural China embraces amidst the digital era. These references are essential for crafting evidence-based policy instruments to facilitate rural communities better leverage lucrative opportunities brought by digital transformation to catalyse leapfrog development and shake-off the image of decline.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1416
JournalLand
Volume12
Issue number7
Early online date14 Jul 2023
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Jul 2023

Keywords

  • Rural evolution
  • Rural restructuring
  • Digital era
  • Digital transformation
  • Information and communications technology for development (ICT4D)
  • China

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